Sunday, June 11, 2006

European Vacation

We recently took the entire Jones family to England to spend a week and a half with our good friends, the Mayfield family. We had a great time. We were in England for most of the trip, but we did spend the last few days in France, visiting the D-Day sites in Normandy.

Here are a few photos/stories from the trip:

We spent a whirlwind day in London. Here we are in front of the Tower Bridge. This is just after we left the Shakespeare Globe Theatre. We walked across the bridge and did a tour of the Tower of London. The kids enjoyed seeing the crown jewels. We also saw the exact spot where one of Henry VIII's wives was beheaded. That extra young man is our friend, Austin Andeason, who flew over from Italy to join us for the trip. He is Justin's old buddy.

Spencer and Mallory in front of Big Ben.

The obligatory phone booth shot. The three Mayfield girls are Lara, Rebecca, and Michelle.

We spent a half a day at the London Temple. We did baptisms for the dead with the Mayfield's ward.

The kids in front of Stonehenge. It is amazing how large these stones are. They were hauled all the way from Scotland, thousands of years ago.

We visited Sherwood Forest and they had a rope course through the trees with zip lines, tightropes, a swing into a big net, and all sorts of other fun things. It was a blast.

More horsing around in Sherwood Forest.

We did several fun drives out in the country. This is the Chatsworth Estate that we found. The estate went on for miles. It was amazing.

The English countryside was just beautiful.

We spent a day at Warwick Castle. We saw a knight show, a falconry show, and toured the castle. Spencer tried his hand at archery and we put the kids on a rack and stretched them out. Great fun.

The Mayfields live in Solihull. We did a little genealogy research on the internet and found out that I have some ancestors from Solihull named "Griswold" (no wonder our family loves the Chevy Chase-Vacation movies). We went over to the local church (St. Alphege) and it was full of Griswold-related items (note the grayhounds in the crests - this the Grisworld family symbol).

When we arrived at the church, they found out we were American descendents so they called a member of their church named David Patterson. David drove in to town and gave us a two hour personal tour of the church and explained the Griswold family history in detail. It was an incredible experience, and something we weren't expecting.

We also paid a visit to the Wooten Wawen church near Stratford. This is where Shakespeare was married and it is one of the oldest churches in England. It dates back to around 900 AD. It also happens to be where one of my ancestors was baptized in the 1600's.

Here is the font in the Wooten Wawen church where said baptism took place. Pretty cool, eh?

After all of the excitement in London, we decided to drive to France to visit the D-Day sites in Normandy. To get there we drove to the Channel Tunnel. This shows us driving on to the trains that carry the vehicles through the Chunnel. You obviously don't see much as you go through the tunnel, but we went deep enough that our ears popped. It took about 30 minutes to go through.

We stayed in Bayeaux, France and this is the Bayeaux Cathedral that was near our hotel. It has been around since the 11th century or so and it is huge and incredibly ornate. This is where William the Conqueror left to fight his way to the English throne.

We happened to be in Normandy on the D-Day weekend. There were hundreds, if not thousands of restored military vehicles everywhere you went.

There were also thousands of Europeans (mainly French) wearing WWII military uniforms. They were friendly and always seemed willing to pose for some photos. Spencer was pretty excited about holding this gun.

Perhaps the highlight of the whole trip was our visit to the US Cemetary at Coleville-Sur-Mere. It is adjacent to Omaha Beach, where the US forces suffered the worst casualties on D-Day. This is the view looking down on Omaha Beach.

This is the view from the beach. It is hard to describe what it was like to be there, knowing how much US blood was spilled on the beach. We treated it as a sacred place.

Visiting the cemetery was emotionally overwhelming. Beautifully maintained and peaceful. The graves seemed to go on forever.

These are the cliffs at Pointe-Du-Hoc. This is just south of Omaha Beach. 225 rangers scaled these cliffs under heavy fire. They eventually took control of the site and then had to defend it for 2-3 days before help arrived. By then only 90 survived.

Prior to D-Day, the Allies dropped tons of bombs on Pointe-Du-Hoc to soften up the German resistance. When the rangers got to the top, they were amazed at the number of bomb craters. You can still see the craters after 62 years. It is astonishing that any Germans survived the bombing, but many did.

There were several "re-enactments" on D-Day weekend. We went to the paratrooper drop at Fiere, near St. Mere Eglise. The paratroopers were from the US, France, Canada, UK, and Germany. There was a big crowd there to watch and we had a great time.

This is one of many German gun bunkers that we visited. These were at Longues. Most bunkers were built using this same design. Concrete was steel-reinforced. No wonder the US bombing didn't do much good.

We spent our last night at Arromanches. This is where the allies built three long artificial piers surrounded by an artificial reef. You can see remnants of the pier in the foreground and the reef in the background. As it was getting dark, we took the Land Rovers and spun donuts on the beach. It was awesome.


At 11:13 AM, Blogger R. Jeffrey Davis said...

Man, all I can say is the Justin got robbed big time. What a great trip!

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Rob Mayfield said...

It was fantastic having you over. Thanks for letting us share your holiday. We enjoyed it AT LEAST as much as you did. Next time.... Australia??? :)

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous lamarrsjones said...

Hey where is a picture of that big buck you shot????


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